Editorial

Editorial: Film festivals
gone sour

Apparently outshined by high-profile political issues, two ongoing film festivals — the 2010 Indonesian Film Festival (FFI) and the 2010 Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest) — have received little attention from the general public. The small amount of public attention has been aggravated by the poor management of the two festivals — another repeat of the past.

The first event — the 2010 FFI — has been marred with controversy surrounding the selection and nomination of the 10 films to vie for the top prize in the Best Film category. Surprisingly, Sang Pencerah (The Enlightener) is not in competition.

Apart from the controversial selection and nomination of eligible films, this year’s festival is also tarnished by the organizers’ failure to keep to the event’s schedule, as they failed to announce all the nominees on Nov. 28 as originally scheduled. Such a failure to stick to the original agenda has cast doubt on whether the culmination of the event — the awards ceremony — can be held on Dec. 6 as planned.

Meanwhile, the 12th JiFFest was troubled by a financial crisis, thus raising doubts about its success. At the time of this article’s publication, the event’s organizers are still looking for sponsors via their website. As the first international film festival in Indonesia, the JiFFest has, since its inception in 1999, played a pivotal role in helping to bring audiences back to the cinema after Indonesian film’s long hiatus in the 1990s. The festival has consistently brought international films of reputable quality to Indonesia’s screens, films generally not screened in regular theaters. Still, theJiFFest has continuously failed to attract the investors required to make the annual festival a success.

The poor management of the two events has once again confirmed the failure of the country’s film industry to convince the general public that its products — films — deserve their recognition and, most importantly, are worth watching.

Technical problems and controversial criteria in determining the eligibility of a film to compete in the FFI, for example, has continuously hampered the Indonesian film industry from securing full recognition from its own public.

It also seems that the organizers never learned from an incident in 2007 when 20 award winners from previous festivals returned their awards to the government in protest of the poor performance of the organizers.

Festival organizers still have three more days to make up their minds whether or not to include Sang Pencerah in this year’s competition, as the 2010 FFI guidelines clearly stipulate a maximum of 15 contestants. Still, a decision to include Sang Pencerah is not without risk, as several of the 10 nominees have threatened to withdraw from this year’s festival should the organizers do so.

Now, whatever the 2010 FFI organizers decide to do regarding Sang Pencerah, they are likely to get severe criticism that could even cost them their credibility. It is perhaps advisable for all related parties to refrain from doing anything that could eventually jeopardize the Indonesian film industry. We should also respect whatever decision the organizers make.

One solution to the problem of the cash-strapped JiFFest is perhaps to incorporate its organization into the FFI, as both events have similar themes and are held at nearly the same time each year.

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